ISLAMABAD, Jul 29 (APP):Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has taken radical and innovative steps to extend maximum facilities to intending Pakistani pilgrims at home and Saudi Arabia so that they could perform the religious obligation in a smooth manner.
Elaborating the government strategy for Hajj-2019, a senior official of the ministry told APP that the government had introduced several new initiatives like issuance of e-Visa and Road to Makkah project.
Under the Road to Makkah project, he said pilgrims would get immigration clearance at Islamabad International Airport for departure and arrival at Saudi Arabia. “Now, these pilgrims will not have to stand in queues at Saudi Airports for immigration as the Saudi authorities have set up special counters at Islamabad airport for the purpose. It is a big facility for Pakistani Hujjaj.” The facility would gradually be extended to other Pakistani airports in next few years.
Besides, for the first time, e-Visa facility had been provided to Pakistani pilgrims for Hajj, ending their day-long exercises for getting visas.
He said the ministry has reserved a total of 10,000 seats for senior citizens above the age of 80. Male applicants of over 80 years of age were allowed an attendant and female applicants of same age had the permission to accompany a female attendant and a joint Mahram.
The ministry has already started returning Rs 5 billion to Government Scheme Hujjaj after saving from accommodation, transport and other expenses. Each Haji was returned from Rs 25,000 to Rs 58,000.
He said the ministry has ensured that the menu of food should be of Pakistani taste. Direct Hajj flights were initiated from Quetta. Comprehensive training of Hujjaj as well as welfare staff was ensured this year.
Another feature of Hajj 2019 was the deployment of Urdu speaking guides in Pakistani camps at Mashair. Welfare staff has been deputed in Mina camps for facilitation of Pakistani hujjaj. The ministry has successfully managed to enhance Pakistani quota to 200,000.
This year the quota has been distributed among government and private hajj scheme at the ratio of 60:40. North region pilgrims were required to pay Rs 436,000 and South region of the country pilgrims were asked to pay Rs 426,000 as charges for performing Hajj. 1.5 percent quota had been reserved for hardship cases. 500 seats were allocated to low income, labours, registered with Workers Welfare Board.
The ministry continued Hujjaj Mohafiz Scheme based on the concept of ‘Takaful’. Most effective monitoring and supervision mechanism for Hajj operation was put in place to facilitate pilgrims. Temporary Haji Camp were established in Gilgit.